A day of unrest turned into a night of rioting in a south Minneapolis neighborhood on Thursday night as crowds looted local businesses and set fires to an AutoZone store and a six story affordable housing complex under construction. Police say at least one person was shot in the riots sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held him down with a knee on his neck during a stop and arrest after allegedly passing a counterfeit bill at a business over the Memorial Day weekend.
Chauvin and three other officers who were present at Floyd’s death were fired on Tuesday, and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday called for Chauvin to be charged with murder, even as crowds clashed with police officers outside the 3rd Precinct building on the city’s south side. As the sun set over the Lake Street neighborhood, the crowd became more violent, and soon after the looting and fires began.
Firefighters raced from one blaze to the next, often with police in tow for crowd control. After someone started a fire at an AutoZone store at Minnehaha and Lake, firefighters worked to douse the flames, knocking down the majority of them. But within a matter of hours, the store was ablaze again, as was a half-built affordable housing development that caught fire, sending flames more than a hundred feet into the air.
Vandals broke into Chicago-Lake Liquor, and also shattered a few windows at the Midtown Market down the block. They also targeted businesses along W. Broadway Avenue, north Minneapolis’ main commercial drag, and in the Uptown area. Several pharmacies were reportedly burglarized, with suspects fleeing with handfuls of prescription pill bottles.
A Target and Cub Foods anchoring the corner of E. Lake Street and Hiawatha Avenue were looted, along with other small businesses, including Minnehaha Lake Wine & Spirits. Flames and smoke shot into the air when a nearby AutoZone auto parts store was set ablaze. As some protesters tried to put out the fire, others danced gleefully in front of it, snapping selfies.
The Star-Tribune newspaper reports at least three shootings took place during the rioting, including one individual who was shot and killed by the owner of a pawn shop who told police he shot someone trying to loot his store.
A 59-year-old man was booked into the Hennepin County Jail on suspicion of the pawn shop shooting, according to online jail records. “The facts of what led up to the shooting are still being sorted out. We are truly in the infancy of this investigation,” Elder said.
Another shooting happened in the 2600 block of Longfellow Avenue, and a victim from a third shooting walked into the emergency room at HCMC, according to scanner traffic. The shootings continued a rash of gun violence across the city, even before Floyd’s killing.
Armed citizens, meanwhile, stood guard outside of other local businesses. Two men told reporters that while they were there to support the non-violent protests and wanted justice for George Floyd, they were also prepared to protect businesses from any looting.
WATCH: Armed citizens are attempting to stop looters in Minneapolis
“Before there were cops, there were just Americans. So, here we are.”
“Justice for Floyd but we don’t support looting…”@maxnesterak
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) May 28, 2020
Mayor Frey has now requested that the Minnesota National Guard be deployed in the city, though some National Guard members were already guarding the 3rd Precinct building by Wednesday afternoon.
Y’all should know by now that I’m a big supporter of peaceful protest and non-violent acts of civil disobedience, but that isn’t what unfolded in Minneapolis on Wednesday night. This was the mob at work, and the mob wasn’t out for justice. It was simply out to destroy. The death of George Floyd may have been the ostensible reason for the riot, but looting a Target or a CVS, or destroying a small restaurant does nothing to further the cause of justice.
I wouldn’t be surprised if gun stores in the Twin Cities are busier than normal today as residents seek to purchase a firearm for self-defense and home protection. In the meantime, Mayor Frey and Gov. Tim Walz need to get their act together and ensure that the protests over death of George Floyd, which are sure to continue today, don’t devolve into the mayhem that took place on Wednesday night.